Good art “speaks to me. It makes me listen. It forms me.” . . . Somehow the art in worship surrounds me and gathers me up into itself. Like music, it enters into my soul and abides there. During the week it becomes a dominant image in my experience and pulls me to dwell on the theme and allows the theme to dwell in me. In this way, it forms me and energizes my spiritual pilgrimage.

-Robert Webber, Worship Is a Verb: Celebrating God’s Mighty Deeds of Salvation, Second Edition

The Unofficial Israel Tour – Caesarea

If you thought the Holy Spirit descended on followers of Jesus in Jerusalem on Pentecost, you’d be right. However, the believers at Pentecost were all Jewish believers. The Holy Spirit fell for the first time on the gentiles at Caesarea after Peter preached to a Roman Centurion named Cornelius. At the time, everyone recognized that this was a new thing!

New Song: Great Things

Throughout scripture, there is a pattern.  God works to save his people and then the people praise him for the great things He has done.  It happens over and over again…Moses and the Red Sea…Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace…the psalms…and then even Mary sings after the angel tells her that she is going to be the mother of God.

For us today, it’s good to remember that God is still doing amazing work in our lives.  He is still destroying death, sin and shame.  God has done great things in my life…in your life!  This song by Phil Wickham starts in the psalms with us kneeling in wonder and inviting others to see what God has done…

Come, let us bow down in worship,
    let us kneel before the Lord our Maker –Psalm  95:6

Verse 1
Come let us worship our King
Come let us bow at His feet
He has done great things
See what our Savior has done
See how His love overcomes
He has done great things
He has done great things

And that is the theme of the song that we keep coming back to again and again.  He has done great things!  As Psalm 126 says,

Then it was said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy. 

Chorus
O Hero of Heaven You conquered the grave
You free every captive and break every chain
O God You have done great things

We use a lot of different words for God.  He is our redeemer.  He is our savior.  He is also our HERO!  If you read the VOICE version, it helps us see this in context…

Our Savior, our hero—the Eternal, Commander of heavenly armies, by name—is the Holy One of Israel!…I am your hero, the strong One of Jacob from whom you come. I will rescue you, whatever the price. –Isaiah 47:4; 49:26 Voice

And what has he rescued us from?

…he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves,  in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. -Colossians 1:13-14

How should we respond?  I don’t know about you, but I think singing and dancing is a good way!

We dance in Your freedom awake and alive
O Jesus our Savior Your name lifted high
O God You have done great things

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.-Galatians 5:1

Let them praise his name with dancing
    and make music to him with timbrel and harp.
For the Lord takes delight in his people;
    he crowns the humble with victory. –Psalm 149:3-4

For us today, God is faithful in big ways and small ways.  He comforts in suffering and protects us from evil.

Verse 2
You’ve been faithful through every storm
You’ll be faithful forevermore
You have done great things

the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one. -2 Thessalonians 3:3

And I know You will do it again
For Your promise is yes and amen
You will do great things
God You do great things

Not only is he faithful in the past, he will continue to do great things for the promises of God are “yes” and amen!  As Paul writes in 2 Corinthians,

For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ.  And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.

The bridge culminates in praise by declaring who God is.  Through out history and throughout our lives, he is God.  There are so many ways to say that.  For example, He is higher, above, unshakable.  But it all comes down to this:  he is the God who does great things.

As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts. –Isaiah 55:9

Bridge
Hallelujah God above it all
Hallelujah God unshakable
Hallelujah You have done great things
You’ve done great things

The Unofficial Israel Tour-the Sea of Galilee

The Sea of Galilee is really a lake, but we’ve all grown up saying, “Sea”. Whatever you call it, it’s the place of a number of stories about Jesus from the Bible. This is where Jesus calmed the storm, preached to thousands, walked on water and commanded fish to fill fisherman’s nets to make a point. It all happened here…

 

New Song: Who You Say I Am

We’ve already been singing it for a few weeks, but I still want to walk us through the biblical basis for our new song, “Who You Say I Am”.  The writers have said that the theme is taken from John 8 which talks about how we will know, the truth and the truth will set us free.  Or in their words,

“It’s a real declaration of identity.”

The first line asks the rhetorical question, “who am I”?  David prays this in 2 Sam 7:18 when he says, “Who am I, Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?”  But this is also a theme that found in Psalm 8 and the book of Job.  Think about it!  In light of the vast creation, why are we so special that God would want us?  This is an invitation to wonder…

Verse 1:
Who am I that the highest King
Would welcome me?
I was lost but He brought me in
Oh His love for me
Oh His love for me
We are lost…you know that, right?…and that is a major theme in Jesus’ stories:  the story of the lost coin, the lost sheep and the prodigal son.  But this is not just a random story.  It is our story.  It is your story.  His love is for YOU.  As Jesus said himself, “if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed”.
Chorus:
Who the Son sets free
Oh is free indeed
I’m a child of God
Yes I am
One of the things I love about the song is the reference to adoption.  Don’t miss this!  You are NOT a  natural son or daughter.  God adopted you as his child.  And if you wondering where he says that, check out John 1:12-13, John 14:18, Romans 8:14-17, Romans 8:23, Romans 9:1-8, Galatians 3:26, Galatians 4:5-7, Ephesians 1:3-14, Ephesians 2:11-22, Hebrews 9:15, and 1 John 3:1-3!
Verse 2:
Free at last, He has ransomed me
His grace runs deep

I know we’re not done w/ the verse yet, but I wanted to point something out.  We are adopted into the family of God, but it wasn’t free.  Someone had to buy us back from slavery.  God paid the price with the blood of his Son.

You were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ… -1 Peter 1:18-19a

Moving on…

While I was a slave to sin
Jesus died for me
Yes He died for me

We were slaves to sin.  That comes directly from the Word of God.  Sometimes it’s good to remember that this is God’s truth we are singing!

…you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir. -Galatians 4:7

Bridge:
I am chosen
Not forsaken
I am who You say I am

It’s such a simple line, but don’t take for granted that you have been chosen.  Matthew records these words that might be hard to hear, but are true.

“For many are invited, but few are chosen.” -Matthew 22:14

Few are chosen.  And not only are you chosen, you are not forsaken.  But that makes me ask, who is forsaken?  The answer might surprise you.  It’s Jesus.  He chose to be forsaken by the Father so you never have to experience what that is like.  In fact, on the cross he cried out,

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” -Mark 15:34

And as Paul says,

“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” -Romans 8:31

The only thing to do is accept the identity that God has given you and live for him.  You are a child of God.

You are for me
Not against me
I am who You say I am

If you want to hear the story behind the song.  Check this out…

The Unofficial Israel Tour – Cana of Galilee

Jesus’ first miracle, as recorded by John, was in Cana of Galilee. Jesus was at a wedding. When they ran out of wine, Jesus turned the water in 6 large jars into the best wine. The Master of Ceremonies, not knowing what had happened, tasted it and said, “you have saved the best till now.” In other words, when Jesus makes wine, he makes the best.

The Unofficial Israel Tour – The Pool of Siloam

In John 9:1–11, we read the story of the blind man who comes to Jesus to be healed. Two interesting things about the story jump out to me. First, Jesus uses mud to heal and secondly, he sends him to the pool. Why are those two things interesting? Let’s find out…on location in Jerusalem.

The Unofficial Israel Tour: Gethsemene

At the foot of the Mt. of Olives sits the Garden of Gethsemene. There are still olive trees in this garden today. One of them, is thought to be 2,000 years old. But what you might not know is that olives are pressed three times and that as Jesus prayed three times in this garden, he was also being pressed.

The Unofficial Israel Tour – The Mount of Olives

When you read the story of the last days of Jesus’ life, you don’t realize how much climbing the disciples had to do. The Mt. of Olives is a mountain and the temple was on another mountain next door. So Jesus and disciples come over one mountain and down the valley to the Upper Room and then come back! Let’s walk the Mount of Olives together…